Force Free Dog Training – No Choke, No Prong, No Pain!
– Original article by Niki Tudge and Angelica Steinker
Since a wide variety of equipment and tools are commonly used when training pets and in their daily activities, the pet-owning public needs to be aware of the potential problems and dangers some equipment may pose.
Specifically, the use of collars and leads that are intended to apply constriction, pressure, pain or force around a dog’s neck (such as a choke chain or prong collar) should be avoided.
Is a Prong Collar Safe?
As more research accumulates on the hazards of the choke and prong collar and more data is compiled documenting the damage these types of collars can cause, distinguished veterinarians worldwide are joining the discussion and are calling for professional dog trainers to commit to eliminating the choke and prong collar from their training programs.
Niki Tudge, founder and president of the PPG, states “training should be conducted in a manner that encourages animals to enjoy training and become more confident and well-adjusted pets.”
According to Dr. Soraya V. Juarbe-Diaz
What most surprises me about the use of collars that choke (i.e. tighten around the neck so it is painful to swallow, difficult to breathe and could damage the tissue underlying the collar) is that people think it is OK to use them in animals, whereas they would recoil in horror if teachers in schools were to use them in human pupils.
We use force, pain, and fear to train animals because we can get away with it, in spite of sufficient scientific data in both humans and dogs that such methods are damaging and produce short-term cessation of behaviors at the expense of durable learning and the desire to learn more in the future.
You can go with so-called tradition or you can follow the ever-expanding body of evidence in canine cognition that supports teaching methods that encourage a calm, unafraid and enthusiastic canine companion.”Dr. Soraya V. Juarbe-Diaz
Psychological and Behavioral Effects
suffers from various pitfalls.James O’Heare., Professional Animal Behavior Consultant.
Notable veterinarian, Dr. Karen Overall, VMD, Ph.D., Diplomate ACVB offers the following guidance –
Most dogs learn to over-ride these collars and people who use them often voluntarily comment that they need to use some degree of pain to control their animals under some circumstances.
These collars, if sharpened – as is often the case – are intended to employ pain to encourage the dog to attend to the person. If left unsharpened, these collars are intended to provide more uniform pressure than a choke collar.
Oddly, prong collars were intended to be a safer improvement over choke collars. That’s not how it has worked.
For aggressive dogs, this the uniform pressure response – especially if accompanied by pain – can worsen their aggression, and for dominantly aggressive dogs, this response can not only worsen their aggression but endanger the client.”
Dr. Karen Overall, VMD, Ph.D., Diplomate ACVB
Dr. Jean Dodds says choke or prong collars are not recommended –
These collars can also injure the salivary glands and salivary lymph nodes on the side of the face underneath both ears.Dr. Jean Dodds. Respected veterinarian and thyroid expert
Documented Injuries to Dogs
While precise data is not yet complete, there are many documented cases of injuries to dogs caused by the use of choke/prong collars. These injuries include, but are not limited to
- Soft tissue damage
- Eye problems
- Strangulation (in some cases leading to death)
- Tracheal/esophageal damage
- Neurological problems
Many vets have treated such injuries and are aware of resulting deaths.
From a strictly physical perspective, Jim Casey, Mechanical Engineer, explains that
Considering a typical flat collar, an 80-pound dog can cause a contact force of approximately 5 pounds per square inch (psi) to be exerted on its neck.
This force increases to 32 psi if a typical nylon choke collar is used and to an incredible 579 psi per prong if a typical prong collar is used. This represents over 100 times the force exerted on the dog’s neck compared to a typical flat collar greatly increasing the possibility of damage or injury to the dog.
For this very reason, many countries with a progressive approach to pet safety and health, such as Austria and Switzerland, have already banned prong collars.Jim Casey, Mechanical Engineer
The Force-Free Alternative
Were people to understand more about how dogs communicate and how these collars work, they would appreciate that responses other than pain and pressure are more desirable for changing an animal’s behavior. These collars are no substitute for early intervention and the treatment of problem behaviors.
For every situation which clients claim control is provided by a prong collar, a head collar is the better, safer and more humane choice, although it requires some investment of time to use correctly. Some dogs are fitted with prong or spike collars because they make the dog look ‘tough’. The problem, here, does not lie with the dog.
Consistent with their commitment to ‘force-free’ training and pet care methods, the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) – the Association of Force Free Dog Training and Pet Care Professionals – does not support the use of choke and prong collars.
Alternatively, they recommend the use of flat buckle collars, head halters, harnesses and other types of control equipment that are safer for the animal and the handler.
Our 7 yo Irish Setter male is too strong for my wife to walk without a prong collar. We’ve decided not to use it anymore however. What would you recommend as an alternative?
We recommend a no pull harness for medium level pullers. There are several brands on the market.
For hard pullers, we recommend a head collar. We use the gentle leader but again there are several different types.
Thank you for listing the psi of prong collars. My trainer is insisting that my dog needs to use one (she’s only 35lbs) and I was able to get her off my back with these figures and facts.